Lt. Col. Valentina Dimitrova-Grajzl, Ph.D., associate professor of economics and business, was one of 13 recipients of the 2019 State Council of Higher Education for Virginia’s Outstanding Faculty Award. The award was presented at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond March 7.
SCHEV has presented the award every year since 1987. It recognizes superior accomplishments in teaching, research and public service among faculty at Virginia’s public and private college and universities. Dimitrova-Grajzl is VMI’s seventh faculty member to receive it and is the Institute’s first female recipient. There were 86 nominations from across the state this year.
“There are so many people at VMI [who] deserve this award,” said Dimitrova-Grajzl. “It’s really a very holistic approach that VMI faculty take to teaching, research and service.”
Along with teaching a full course load in economics during the academic year, Dimitrova-Grajzl, who is from Bulgaria, has established a summer study abroad course in central Europe. She is currently developing a new study abroad program that will take students to new and old members of the European Union and connect the history, economics and politics of the region.
Locally, she is also active in connecting cadets with the community, co-founding the VMI service club Building BRIDGES. What began as the VMI Women Build with Habitat Initiative expanded into a program that engages cadets with service organizations throughout the community, including Project Horizon, the SPCA and the Rockbridge Area Relief Association.
During her seven years at VMI, Dimitrova-Grajzl has published 16 articles. Her extensive research into economics and social science is informed by her childhood. She grew up in Bulgaria as it transitioned from communism to capitalism, and her research has included the impact of the historical origins of institutions in today’s post-socialist nations.
Her experiences, research, and dedication to cadets are present in the classroom, from introductory economics courses such as Principles of Microeconomics to upper-level electives such as Institutions and Economic Development.
Dimitrova-Grajzl was one of three VMI faculty members nominated by the Dean’s Office this fall. Part of her submission included letters of recommendation from VMI faculty and former students.
“The biggest award for me was the letters of support from the alumni,” said Dimitrova-Grajzl. “It’s very rewarding to do what we do.”
One of them, written by Casey Field ’17, described Dimitrova-Grajzl’s dedication to community service. “Dr. Dimitrova-Grajzl develops relationships with her students that extend far beyond the classroom,” said Field. “I deeply respect her as both a professor and mentor.”
In Dimitrova-Grajzl’s personal statement she recognized her own teachers and the example they set. “I integrate my life experiences and my research findings in my classes,” said Dimitrova-Grajzl. “Ultimately, I want my students to feel the way I felt in my middle school math class or my Wittenberg classes – inspired to learn, safe to explore different ideas and learn different skills, enriched by my teachers’ knowledge and peers’ experiences.”
Kelly Nye VMI Communications & Marketing